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Fortnite returning to iOS, but not to the App Store

After more than a yearlong absence from Apple’s App Store, Fortnite is coming back to iOS devices. But Epic Games’ battle royale blockbuster won’t be returning to the App Store — instead, it will be playable via Apple’s Safari web browser through Nvidia’s GeForce Now game-streaming service. An Android version will also be playable through GeForce Now.

Nvidia and Epic announced Thursday that the companies have been working to develop a touch-friendly version of Fortnite for mobile devices that’s playable through the cloud. A closed, limited-time beta for Fortnite on mobile through GeForce Now will roll out next week, Nvidia said, and subscribers to the cloud-gaming service can register to take part.

Fortnite was removed from the App Store in August 2020, when developer Epic Games added a new option to the in-game store that allowed players to purchase V-Bucks, the paid in-game currency, directly from Epic. This new option bypassed the App Store’s 30% cut of purchases made on the platform, a violation of Apple’s terms.

Apple quickly removed Fortnite from the App Store — a move that Epic anticipated — leading Epic to release a video that parodied Apple’s most famous commercial, and to file a lawsuit against Apple. Google likewise pulled Fortnite from its app store, leading Epic to instruct players how to install the game outside of the Google Play app store.

After a very public trial, and a lengthy deliberation, the judge in the case ruled that Apple cannot prohibit developers “from including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms.” But Fortnite remains barred from Apple’s App Store, and may be unavailable natively on iOS for up to five years, according to Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney.

Microsoft opted for a similar implementation for Xbox Cloud Gaming when it brought its cloud-based gaming service to iOS devices last year. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can stream games on Apple devices through a browser, a roundabout way of avoiding Apple’s restrictive rules for bringing game-streaming apps to its App Store.

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